You get the idea. Its beautiful, its simplistic… and it might be killing our planet. I don’t say this to deter anyone from striving to lower your waste or store all of pantry staples in glass because, in and of itself, its not a bad thing. However, if you want to start your journey toward a more intentional and low impact lifestyle, the last thing you want to do is go out and buy every “zero-waste essential” on the market.
Glass is considered by many to be far more sustainable than plastic because it can be easily recycled an infinite number of times. However, making a new glass jar is extremely resource intensive, and when you buy something brand new, you are creating a demand for more glass jars to be produced. Although it may look nice to have all your matching Mason jars lining your cupboards, I recommend just using the jars you already have. Many of us probably have old mason jars lying around or perhaps your parents or grandparents have some that they aren’t using anymore. Even if that’s not the case, you are likely already buying something that comes in glass. Pasta sauce, pickles, peanut butter, or jelly—you can give any of those jars a beautiful second life. Not only will this save you money, but it also saves something from going to waste and it saves on resources to make something new.
Another “essential” that people are often tricked into buying, myself included (it’s okay, we all make mistakes but hopefully you learn from mine), are cotton reusable shopping bags.
But they’re trendy! Its organic cotton! Its reusable! What could be wrong?
Although reusables are great, and generally organic is always better than not, cotton is extremely resource intensive. You must consider the land that it requires to grow cotton, all the water that it requires, the processing, and the emissions to ship it to you or your store. The list goes on and on. In fact, to make a single use plastic bag usually generates far less emissions than it does to make a brand-new cotton bag. Crazy, right? Now I am certainly not advocating for plastic bags, as they lead to significant plastic pollution. However, if you’re going to get a new cotton reusable bag, you would have to reuse that bag hundreds of times before it has made up for the emission required to produce it.
So, what’s the solution? Look through your own trash to find new treasures. I personally have tons of old sling bags and tote bags lying around the house already. They may not be that aesthetically pleasing or made of organic cotton, but they don’t require any new resources be consumed in order for me to ditch single use plastic bags. If you don’t have bags around your house, here are some other options:
· Ask a friend or family member
· Check your local thrift store or Goodwill
· DIY one yourself from an old T shirt that you’re no longer using – https://www.grecodesigncompany.com/diy/how-to-make-a-tote-bag-from-a-t-shirt-no-sewing/
Real low-impact living doesn’t always look like the pictures. Instead its mismatched jars, old plastic Tupperware that’s still good, hand-me-downs, and the best of your local thrift shop. Plastic free living is amazing, and it’s great to support sustainable products from ethical businesses. However, before you run out and buy the glass Tupperware set, the metal straws, the matching Mason jars, or even the “eco-friendly” reusable bag at the grocery store, look at what you already have because that is almost always the best decision for both your wallet and the planet.